DULUTH -- In metropolitan Atlanta, one of the regions hardest hit by the recent economic doldrums, the future depends on a proposed sales tax vote slated for July, an economist said Wednesday.
Donald Ratajczak, an economist, gave his annual predictions to the membership of the Council for Quality Growth, a group of businessmen and builders heavily hit by the housing crisis during the past several years.
"We haven't hit bedrock yet," Ratajczak said, pointing to even more problems in metro Atlanta than in the national economy because of dual banking issues.
On top of those job losses, governments have been forced to shrink due to lower revenues, a problem that hasn't occurred in any other recession, he said.
While many are hanging the hope of prosperity on the July transportation sales tax vote, Ratajczak said he and other economists met Tuesday and decided to be very conservative in estimates about its economic effect.
It may not bring a million jobs or fix all of Atlanta's woes, he said. But if voters reject the 10-year, 1-percent tax the region will have little to defend itself when other parts of the country try to draw business away from the area.
"If we don't pass it, the signal is disastrous. It makes us very difficult to attract anybody," he said, adding that while it is hard to put a number on the economic impact, the vote will gauge how serious people are about tackling the region's No. 1 issue. "I'm not going to underestimate the importance of this vote."
Ratajczak said the surprisingly positive beginning to the Christmas season is a positive sign, although middle-class people still need to curb spending based on a 23 percent drop in wealth, mostly from the drop in property values.
While meetings in Europe at the end of this week will determine whether officials "muddle through" the woes caused by Greece and other countries, Ratajczak said Atlanta's future is all about the transportation tax vote.
"What happens in the next two years is very dependent on what happens in July," he said. "If we fail to move on it, we are going to go backward."